The 8th F1 Esports race of the 2022 season was a stellar showcase of racing in Mexico City.
With drivers now running out of races to mount a title challenge every point was crucial, but who would stand on the top of the podium and would we see a change at the top of the standings?
It was F1 Esports' nearly-man Frede Rasmussen on pole, with a lap time of 1:14.335. As usual it was very close, with rookie Thomas Ronhaar claiming second less than a tenth behind.
'20 and '21 champion Jarno Opmeer had a big bounce-back performance by qualifying in P3 and sits in the perfect position to get a tow on the long drag down to turn 1.
Championship leader Lucas Blakeley would start in P8, alongside his McLaren teammate and championship rival Bari Boroumand in P7.
With ERS and tyre management being crucial in Mexico City, finding the perfect pit lap and avoiding track limit penalties could catapult drivers up the order.
Rasmussen got off the line well and held his nerve around the outside as he fended off Ronhaar and Opmeer.
The McLaren duo also gained a pair of places each as Marcel Kiefer and Shanaka Clay dropped down.
Ronhaar, starting on the hard tyre, was swallowed up by the field as Rasmussen tried to break the DRS gap.
Luckily for the rest of the field, Opmeer, Idowu, and Blakeley were all able to get through and cling onto the back of Rasmussen and keep the DRS.
With three different compounds of tyre all in use in the opening stint there was a lot of shuffling going on through the pack.
The top for of Rasmussen, Opmeer, Idowu, and Blakeley were able to break away from the hard-tyre runners thanks to their medium Pirellis. By the end of lap 9 they had an almost two-second lead over Ronhaar in fifth.
Of course, Ronhaar would get the faster rubber later in the race, but would he drop too far behind to make it up later?
It wasn't too long before the pitstops started though, as Nicolas Longuet was the first to ditch the medium tyre at the end of lap 12. He was dropped into P15 but a good amount of clean air to bring his tyres up to temperature and start pushing for the undercut.
At the end of lap 14, Idowu and Blakeley pulled the trigger on the undercut and filtered out in 12th and 13th, just ahead of Longuet. Rasmussen reacted but Opmeer, the master of in-race strategy, opted to stay out on the mediums for longer.
With a lot of ERS, Opmeer pushed like mad and then dived in a lap later. He came out ahead of Rasmussen to take the net race lead and with fresher tyres than all his rivals.
A spanner in the works
As Boroumand and Ronhaar used their softer tyres to gain, the Williams of Daniele Haddad had gone super-long and was soon caught by those that had pitted.
Opmeer was able to dive through at an unusual part of the track and used Haddad's lack of pace to break the DRS gap to Rasmussen.
In the chaos of cycling Haddad to the back, Ronhaar was able to get past Blakeley and demote the championship leader to P6.
Opmeer was able to just hold the gap above one second to Rasmussen, crucially keeping the Red Bull man out of DRS and leaving him vulnerable to attacks from behind.
On lap 26 Boroumand made his move on Idowu, and with the Alphatauri off-line Ronhaar pounced as well. Two laps later Boroumand cleared Rasmussen for P2 and set about chasing down Opmeer.
Rasmussen was determined to keep Ronhaar behind but despite some wheel-banging he couldn't do it.
With all the fighting Opmeer remained 1.7 seconds out in front, with a similar gap from P2 back to Ronhaar in P3.
Meanwhile the championship leader was having a tough day, falling down the field and at risk of dropping out of the points.
Fireworks at the finish
As the laps died away we saw some heated driving from an unexpected place.
Clearly feeling aggrieved for his lost place to Ronhaar, Rasmussen dove into turn 5 and bullied Ronhaar off the road. It cost Rasmussen a 3-second time penalty right away and would almost certainly lead to a visit to the stewards and a bigger penalty.
Opmeer was clear out front and took a comfortable win with Boroumand second. Rasmussen crossed the line third but dropped to 11th based on six seconds of penalties in the race, and surely more afterwards. Ronhaar would take third but we will have to wait for the official results to come in.
The next race
The F1 Esports grid moves to COTA for the next race and you don't have to wait for long as it will be on Friday 4 November!
Qualifying will be at 3:30 pm UTC with the race at 7:30pm UTC.
You can catch all the action on Formula 1's official YouTube and Twitch channels.